Schoharie County seeks to turn former jail into commercial site – The Daily Gazette
SCHOHARIE — For sale or for rent: a prison complex damaged by flooding. The seller is motivated, but the potential buyer must present a vision, not just money.
Schoharie County is seeking proposals for its former public safety complex in the village of Schoharie, 127 months after Tropical Storm Irene triggered epic flooding that rendered much of the facility unusable.
The buyer and/or occupants will need to make repairs and may also want to take precautionary measures to limit damage in the event of future flooding. But the property has potential — the buildings are only 30 years old, total 80,000 square feet, and span 6.7 acres.
“They did some cleanup after the floods,” said Julie Pacatte, executive director of Schoharie Economic Enterprise Corp., which is leading the marketing effort.
“Part of the ground floor of the two-story administrative office building is essentially gutted. The upper floor is in very good condition. It’s as if people were working there yesterday.
The prison itself is a masonry block building and has withstood flooding.
SEEC earlier this month released a request for proposals for the site. There is no specified asking price, and Pacatte itself does not know what minimum price the county would accept. There is also no required format or use for the revitalized building.
Mixed-use sounds ideal, she says, but what the county, village and SEEC fundamentally want is job creation and boosting the area’s economy.
The criteria for selecting the winning proposal(s) in random order are the price offered by the bidder; short- and long-term vision for good; ability to foster economic growth in the county; and the financial capacity to achieve all of this.
Schoharie County is officially part of the five-county Albany-Schenectady-Troy Metropolitan Statistical Area. While many of its commuters work in the four major Capital Region counties that make up the rest of MSA, Schoharie County is very different from them — sparsely populated and heavily rural.
For other purposes, Schoharie County is grouped into the Mohawk Valley or southern portion, although it is well removed from both the Mohawk River and the southern state border.
Schoharie County is even the most northeastern county covered by the Appalachian Regional Commission.
The sunny way to look at all of this is that Schoharie County can use neighboring economies as a springboard for its own economic development.
According to SEEC, business or technology tenants would be ideal for integrating into the economies of surrounding areas such as Tech Valley in the Capital Region.
“We’re just 26 minutes from the Capital Region clusters,” Pacatte said.
For these reasons, the facility at 157 Depot Lane is marketed as STEAM 157, said Pacatte – Science Technology Engineering Agriculture & Math.
It remains to be seen how this fits into a vacant former prison and office building with two acres of compartmentalized floor space.
Pacatte said anti-flood valves, pumps, mechanical systems placed on the second floor and other architectural measures could reduce the threat from the Schoharie stream, which flows just 100 meters away, usually placid but sometimes a swollen torrent.
The prison itself has extensive plumbing, with toilet and sink connections in every cell, Pacatte said. The cells themselves could be removed, or they could be kept and used as lockers for something like independent regional food processing for the heavily agricultural region, she added. There is also an amazing two story mezzanine with natural light which would be an ideal common area.
Early inquiries appear to be leaning towards renting rather than buying, Pacatte said.
There are a few constraints. By accepting federal disaster relief funds to build a new public safety facility on higher ground in Howes Cave, the county rendered itself ineligible to reuse the site, Pacatte said. But private sector investors could.
The county is prepared to provide rental or sale incentives based on quantifiable community benefits for investment and job creation at the site.
SEEC is a non-profit economic development entity created in 2019 by the private sector. The department is one of its closest partners but it is independent.
Pacatte said SEEC’s efforts have continued during the pandemic, but the economy has proven resilient.
“The small business community is amazing,” she said. “Our villages really have a grassroots effort on the main street.”
With people staying closer to home during the pandemic and e-commerce sales being taxed where they live, sales tax revenue has risen sharply. State data shows a year-over-year increase of 5% in 2020 and 17% in 2021, with some of the latter likely due to inflation.
Other state and federal data are mixed:
Schoharie County unemployment in December was 2.9%, the lowest in a third of a century. The November and January unemployment rates were the lowest in 33 years for those months.
Schoharie County lost a higher percentage of its population (9.3%) than any other New York state between the 2010 and 2020 censuses, in part likely due to the departure of Irene’s victims.
Median household income is significantly lower in Schoharie County than neighboring Albany County, but significantly higher than neighboring Montgomery County.
A lower percentage of Schoharie County’s working-age population is employed than in Albany and Montgomery counties and those who work average longer commute times.
Occupancy tax revenue was the highest on record in 2021, Pacatte said, “and our real estate transactions were off the charts, especially in the southern part of the county.”
Looking ahead, SEEC currently has three main focuses, Pacatte said: Main Street development, industrial recruitment and the expansion of high-speed internet access.
Main village streets throughout the county have their charm and have people working to promote them.
Through stimulus funding and the advice of a consultant, SEEC has identified key elements of the Mohawk Valley and Capital Region economies, unmet needs in these economies, and ways the county de Schoharie could try to fill these gaps.
MIDTEL has extended high-speed internet to large swaths of the county, Pacatte said, but “we definitely have gaps.”
SEEC has looked at how other communities across the country have overcome the so-called digital divide that limits prospects for remote work and economic development, she said, and it continues to make efforts at home. .
The county announced $250,000 in funding to help businesses adopt digital platforms and within five days, three dozen apps totaled more than the total pot available. The county is now considering additional funding for this purpose.
The most recent effort was launched last week: a request for proposals to install a $100,000 public Wi-Fi hub on Main Street in the village of Schoharie, a two-minute walk from the old county jail.
Those wishing to submit proposals for the former Schoharie County Public Safety Complex must participate in a guided tour on April 1 or April 19.
The deadline for proposals is April 29. The selection will be made on June 17.
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